Interview with the director of the Vučedol secrets series


The film is the most powerful medium – a hundred stimuli in one

I am sure that the promotion of our cultural and historical heritage is just the beginning

Darko Puharić is the owner of Design studio D, a self-taught filmmaker for already 18 years, and he has been in the world of documentary film for the last six years. His career started with photography and graphic design. He has been behind the camera in the production of music and tourist videos as well as corporate films. In a relaxed atmosphere in his film studio, he told us a story about his success journey from humble beginnings all the way to European and worldwide film festivals.

When it comes to the art of film, can we talk about art in commercial relations and the environment?

– Yes, there is always art in the film if you leave her enough space. The soul does not breathe if it is restrained. The more space we leave for her, the more of her will we be able to convey to the viewer. Film or video is the most powerful medium that contains photography, text, sound, and certainly the strongest suggestion in the field of multimedia. I would say that there are a hundred stimuli in one in the video. There is a string of 25 photos per second, background music, and coloring that can leave a man breathless. In the first years of creating, a person fights for his basic existence, buys equipment, rents, and basically only manages in business … You do what is fastest and first offered in the market, but that is mere survival. You try to give yourself into it as much as you can, but it is not authorial, because it is commissioned and commercial. You do what you have to do, not what you want to do, and you pray dear God to come across a client who will say “do as you think you should”. Only persistence, time, work, experience, and survival both as a person and as a business entity lead you to your desired goal. Then comes the time when you can work and play, release all the brakes so you can create freely, and only then you can fly.

What are the basic features of a documentary?

– The production of documentaries has more freedom than a feature film that has an accurate shooting plan and everything is defined in detail. Documentary, especially authorial, gives you more freedom, although due to unforeseen moments and constant expansion of the topic you can easily exceed the budget very quickly. In any case, control and a recording plan must exist, as well as adaptation to the topic you are working on.

What happens after production? How to place a film?

– You may have noticed that lately the approach to the promotion and placement of documentaries is similar to feature film marketing and I have had such an approach for the last three years. The official poster must be cinematic and great as well as the trailer, and the premiere of the film. You have to have press conferences and social media marketing. The second step is an application for international festivals and then the placement. Of course, each producer has an individual approach and there are films exclusively for the client, ie a commercial order.

Do you have enough festivals for presenting your films?

– The number of festivals has increased enormously in the last ten years, which is both good and bad. More and more of them are specialized in only one area so you apply to them in a targeted way. The pandemic has complicated the situation, so many serious festivals had to switch to online screenings. It’s confusing. Of course, it is a success to enter the Official selection of a festival and it is an even greater success to receive an award, but the weight and seriousness of festivals are very different. This one time when I won a prize, I was surprised that I had to pay 80-400 euros for the statuette. So you get a prize, but you have to buy it in order for the festival to make money. It’s horrific… On the other hand, it is a great honor to be at a real festival event in Berlin, Sarajevo, or Crete where we are going in August. There are real screenings and real awards. Successes at festivals make it easier to finance and produce new projects. I want to point out that the success of a film is measured by the sum of all the parameters and criteria. The audience is the most important, then the placement at medium and large festivals, and the readiness of a TV company to broadcast your product. All this ultimately leads to a successful placement. The expectations of the audience and distributors are not easy to meet.

Your biggest project is the series “Vučedol Secrets”. How did you do it?

– “Vučedol Secrets” is a series of five documentary-feature historical films and each of them shows one specific prehistoric theme from Vučedol culture, all according to the script of a renowned archaeologist, prof. Dr. Aleksandar Durman. We started shooting in 2018, and we are currently finishing the post-production of the third film. By the spring of 2023, we are planning to finish all five of them. Five years, five movies. About sixty people are involved in the production of each film. Among them, we have academic actors, amateur actors, technicians, collaborators … Throughout feature scenes and 3D reconstruction we have visualized life from the prehistoric period of Vučedol culture, 3000 – 2500 BC. It is a culture in our area with the highest living standards and most knowledge at the time of the construction of the Egyptian pyramids and it spread to the current thirteen European countries. It is a topic that deserves serious publicity both in Europe and in the world, and our contribution to that is certainly significant. We are creating everything in English and for the foreign market, and after a year of negotiations and preparation, we have hired a Hollywood actor Armand Assante who is a guest narrator in the films.

How difficult is it to visualize prehistoric life?

– The whole team of “Vučedol Secrets” is working on scientific facts that we try to transfer to films as much as possible: from the architecture of the settlement, costume design based on excavated ceramic idols, religious and ritual aspects of Indo-European life, props, author’s creations, art tattoos … Altogether it makes a demanding production both technically and on stage. There are hours and hours of drawing, preparing, planning, making 3D reliefs and settlements… Everything is challenging, but it is also very interesting. The team working on the project has crystallized but we are constantly expanding and enriching it with new people who are all under a common denominator – enthusiasts!

Are you satisfied with the feedback from international festivals for the first two films?

– Yes, we are proud of our success at international festivals so far. We got into the official competition of about twenty smaller and larger festivals, from awards in Mexico, Sarajevo, Berlin, Naples, and Mykonos. Great recognition comes from Crete from Greece, where we will be guests in August. It is of great importance because through the film ‘Vučedol partridge’ we show the roots of Greek mythology 1000 years before in Vučedol culture. In April we are in Berlin and we are registered for about 15 more festivals. We hope for great results and I am sure that the promotion of our cultural and historical heritage is just the beginning.

How difficult is it to cover the costs of such large projects?

– I think that is the main reason why there are no more documentaries like ours. What the national HRT produces is basically all we have. There are only a few independent private productions. Feature films are funded by the state about twenty times more generously per minute than documentaries. I made the first film on my own. I had to take a risk, no matter what. After the premiere of that film, I received an inquiry from the leader of Vukovar in which I was asked about my future plans. From the start the plan was a series, not just one film, so we immediately signed a partnership agreement with the City of Vukovar and thus solved the most necessary part of financing the production.